11. Israel: G-D'S Eternal Children
Hear this word that I take up over you in lamentation, O House of Israel: "The virgin of Israel has fallen and shall not rise; forsaken on her land, there is none to raise her up."
Amos is predicting the exile of the ten tribes of Israel to Assyria (see glossary), as he continues to elaborate:
Thus says the L-rd, G-d: "The city that went forth a thousand shall have a hundred left, and that which went forth a hundred shall have ten left for the House of Israel."
These ten tribes will never regain their former glory as a separate kingdom. They will, however, return to the Holy Land in the Messianic Era and be reunited with the two tribes of Judah (see glossary). At that time, a Judean king (the Messiah) from the House of David will reign over the entire nation:
"For behold, days are coming," says the L-rd, "when I will bring back the captivity of My people, Israel and Judah," says the L-rd, "and I will cause them to return to the land I gave their fathers, and they shall possess it."
Ezekiel 37:21--22, 24
Thus says the L-rd, G-d: "Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations into which they have gone, and will gather them from all sides, and bring them to their own land; and make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; and they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they be divided into two kingdoms anymore....My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd...."
Ezekiel 39:25, 27, 29
Therefore thus says the L-rd, G-d: "Now I will bring back the captivity of Jacob and have mercy upon the whole House of Israel....When I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from their enemies' lands....I will not hide My face from them anymore, when I pour out My spirit upon the House of Israel," says the L-rd, G-d.
Afterwards the children of Israel shall return and seek the L-rd, their G-d, and David, their king, and come trembling to the L-rd and His goodness in the end of days.
Amos concludes his book with this theme:
Amos 9:11, 14--15
"On that day I will raise up the fallen tabernacle of David and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old....I will restore the captivity of My children, Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them....I will plant them upon their land, and they shall never again be uprooted from their land, which I have given them," says the L-rd, your G-d.
Then said the L-rd to me: "Though Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My soul would not turn toward this people; send them out of My sight and let them go forth."
And many nations shall pass by this city, and every man will say to his neighbor: "Why has the L-rd done thus to this great city?" Then they will answer: "Because they forsook the covenant of the L-rd, their G-d, and worshipped other gods, and served them."
And you [the tribe of Judah], even you will cease [to dwell in the land of] your heritage, which I gave you, and I will make you serve your enemies in the land you do not know, for in My anger you have kindled a fire that shall burn forever.
As the aforementioned Messianic prophecies indicate, these verses were not to be taken literally. Rather, they were meant to impress upon the Jews the dire need to repent. In fact, Israel is not to serve its enemies, it is to be served by them:
Foreigners shall build your walls, and their kings shall minister to you; for in My wrath I smote you, but in My favor I have had mercy on you. Your gates shall be open continually, day and night they shall not be shut; in order that men may bring you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led [in procession]. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish; those nations shall be utterly laid waste.
In the Hebrew Bible, "forever" is to be understood as everlasting only when accompanied by other words to this effect, such as:
This day [Passover] shall be for you a memorial, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the L-rd; throughout your generations you shall celebrate it as an ordinance forever.
Without this accompaniment, "forever" just means a long time:
And if the servant shall plainly say: "I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go free...." [Then] he shall serve him forever.
I Samuel 1:22, 28
But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband: "As soon as the child [Samuel] is weaned, I will bring him, in order that he may appear before the L-rd and abide there forever...." "Therefore I lend him to the L-rd; as long as he lives, he is lent to the L-rd. And he bowed down to the L-rd there."
And He said: "Go and say to this people: `Hear indeed, but do not understand; see indeed, but do not perceive.' Make the heart of this people fat, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and repent and be healed." Then I said: "How long, O L-rd?" and He said: "Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without men, and the land is utterly desolate. And [until] the L-rd removes men far away and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. And though a tenth remain in it, it will again be consumed; like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains when it loses its leaves, so is the holy seed its stump."
The curse outlined in bold was temporary, as is evident from the passage following it. It lasted only until the ten northern tribes of Israel were exiled to Assyria:
II Kings 17:22--23
The children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam, which he had committed; they did not depart from them. Until the L-rd removed Israel from His sight, as He had spoken via all His servants, the prophets; thus, Israel was exiled from its own land to Assyria until this day.
The tribes of Judah and Benjamin were the "tenth" (of the population) remaining. As the text foretells, they, too, were later "consumed," i.e., exiled to Babylon:
II Kings 25:11
And Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, exiled the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon, together with the rest of the multitude.
The New Testament (Matthew 13:14--15) cites the passage under discussion as "proof" that the Jews are cursed from recognizing Jesus as the Messiah.